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Full text of "A plea for the critical study of the Scriptures, against Romanism and rationalism : a discourse, delivered by Rev. Melancthon W. Jacobus, D.D., on the occasion of his inauguration as professor of Biblical and Oriental literature in the Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny City, Pa., April 12, 1852"

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Melancthon W. Jacobus 

A Plea for the Critical Study of the 
Scriptures? against Romanlem and 

Is*- 1 




MAY 5 1959 

.3" 17 




%OP!GAL %V^ 









April 12, 1852. 




Pittsburgh, May 13th, 1852. 
Rev. M. W. Jacobus, D. D. 

Dear Sir: — At a meeting of the Board of Directors 
of the Western Theological Seminary last evening, the following Resolution 
was unanimously adopted, viz: 

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to request of Professor 
Jacobus a copy of his Inaugural Address, delivered before the Board of Direc- 
tors this evening, for publication in Pamphlet form. 

The undersigned committee take great pleasure in conveying to you the 
above resolution, and respectfully request as early a reply as will suit your 




Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny City, ) 

May Uth, 1851. ) 

To Messrs. Luke Loomis, F. G. Bailey, J. Schoonmaker: 

Gentlemen: — In reply to your very kind note, 
conveying the Resolution of the Directors, I submit a copy of the Inaugural 

Address, &c. 

With high respect, Yours, 



"I know but little of the Hebrew," said one of the great Re- 
formers, "but the little that I know, I would not exchange for 
worlds." This was the Reformation spirit, roused, at length, after 
the slumber of ages, to protest against any infallible expositor of 
God's Word — to assert the right of private judgment under the 
promised guidance of the Holy Ghost, and to subject every opinion 
to the test of Sacred Writ as the only infallible rule of faith and 
practice. The Protestant principle looked beyond versions, as it 
looked beyond creeds. It would be content only with searching out 
the very mind of the Spirit. Papacy and Infidelity can forego this 
task. And in proportion as the Scriptures have been held in rever- 
ence as the very Word of God for every man, in that proportion has 
the study of the originals been pursued. 

Hence Ave challenge Romanism on the one hand, and Infidelity on 
the other, with the Scriptures in the sacred tongues. Our Protestant 
Bible is not King James' version, nor Luther's, nor the Geneva — 
not any nor all of these — so much as it is the Hebrew and Greek 
Testaments. But the Romanist's Bible is the Latin Vulgate, with 
its apocrypha and the endless traditions which they have set above 
the word of God. And this Bible of theirs is not as old as Chris- 
tianity by some six hundred years. And hence £et me say, that 
Church itself cannot be older than the seventh century, unless it was 
a Church without its Bible. 

And what claim has their Bible to be the standard in Christen- 
dom ? Though it was pronounced by the Council of Trent to be the 
only authentic text " from which no one, upon any pretext, should 

presume or dare to differ," Pope Sixtus V soon after, decreed it to be 
erroneous, and issued another most infallible and from which no one 
should dare to differ. But in two years after, another Pope ordered 
this one to be suppressed, as swarming with errors, and sent forth 
his own rival infallible Vulgate, differing from the former in upwards 
of two thousand instances ! 

But the Protestant principle is this — to appeal from all versions 
to the primitive Scriptures. The Papist tells us that our Bible is 
not the Word of God. We confront him with the very law and the 
testimony in the original tongues. We claim no doctrine or rule of 
faith on the authority of a mere version which is human. And we 
are willing to contest every inch of ground on this sole platform of 
the -primitive and inspired record. Rome has built her own system 
on a version of man. And thus it is that she alone, of all the 
Churches in the world, has a Sectarian Bible. 

Under the Papacy until the Reformation, the Hebrew language 
was confined within the walls of the Synagogue. The Papal 
Church, true to its despotic policy, had uniformly ignored the study. 
During all its sway in the dark ages, it was not until the middle of 
the 14th century that the first Christian author, since Origen and 
Jerome employed the Hebrew language for the interpretation of 
Scripture. And the first dictionary and grammar among Chris- 
tians, date as lately as the opening of the XVIth century, just prior 
to the Reformation in Germany. No wonder that the relative posi- 
tion of Scriptural study to a Reformed Church should have entitled 
John Reuciilin "the father of the German Reformation." With- 
out grammar or lexicon, as we have them, he obtained his tuition of 
a Jew, at a golden crown a day. And the man who dared to con- 
struct so formidable an apparatus as a grammar and dictionary for 
unlocking the stores of Scripture, found himself by the necessity of 
the case, a Protestant. And just because the study of God's Word, 
Avith such new facilities of drawing from the pure fountains, met 
with Romish opposition, it led also to the Christian Reformation. 
Long had that corrupt Church been growing more and more debased 

in the profligate manners of priest and people. Long had the 
exclusion of the Sacred Scriptures induced a cold and dead Scho- 
lasticism, reasoning about trifles and wasting precious life in pettiest 
disputes — and engendering a practical infidelity, as pernicious as the 
most avowed. Long had ecclesiastical authority undertaken to sup- 
plant God's revealed Word, and to hinder all free incpiiry. So that 
ignorance and priestcraft, thus long identified must needs stand or fall 
together. "To the triumph of truth it was above all things necessary 
that the arms with which she was to conquer, should be drawn from 
the arsenals in which they had been laid aside for ages. Those 
arms were the sacred writings of the Old and New Testaments. It 
was necessary to revive in Christendom the love and the study of the 
sacred Hebrew and Greek literature." * At this very crisis the 
Monks of Cologne had obtained a decree for the burning of 
Hebrew manuscripts. All that was rich in sacred learning, and 
replete with illustration and proof of Holy Writ in the writings of 
the Jews was to be cast into the flames. The plea was that which 
the execrable Saracen used centuries before, when he burned the 
priceless library of Alexandria — that if the books agreed with the 
Koran, they were useless, and if they disagreed they were per- 
nicious. Reuchlin came out as the young David of Israel against 
this mailed and giant Goliath of the Philistines. His priestly 
opposers maintained that even the study of Gfreek would tend to 
heresy, because the Greeks were Schismatics — and the study of 
Hebrew much more, because all who engaged in it were sure to 
become Jeivs ! But Reuchlin demanded that the best means of con- 
verting the Israelites would be to establish in every university, two 
teachers of the Hebrew tongue, who should teach the Christian 
theologians to read the Bible in Hebrew, and thus to refute the 
Jewish doctors. His was the true Protestant method, of overcoming 
error by truth, and not by torture ; by teaching, and not by tor- 
menting. Yet for this breach in their wall, the whole array of 

* D'Aubigne. 

priests and inquisitors fell upon him with fury. Like famished vul- 
tures deprived of their prey, they broke out in rage. They 
garbled his writings, perverted the sense, accused him of heresies, 
charged him with Judaism, and threatened him with the inquisition. 
But he went forward — he applied his great learning to the correction 
of the Latin Vulgate until men saw that the Romish Church, which 
had sanctioned the grossest errors in that version, was not infallible. 

He writes: "I have composed a Hebrew grammar and dictionary, 
a work hitherto unheard of, which has cost me the greatest trouble, 
and a large portion of my fortune, induced to do it by the great worth 
of the sacred writings, as well as for the advantage of the students 
in them." So says the historian, " It soon became a controversy 
about religion and truth at large — a battle for the restoration of 
knowledge against the iniquities of monks and priests, and against 
their arrogance and despotism."* 

And thus, even while he knew it not, he laid the axe at the root 
of priestly domination. That simple dictionary and grammar in the 
Hebrew language was the sling and smooth stone, by which the 
Romish Philistine was struck through the joints of the harness; and 
at once the reformed hosts were shouting in the light of God's 
Word, as in the blaze of a new Revelation. Luther wrote to him : 
"The Lord hath acted in thee, so that the light of the Sacred Scrip- 
tures should begin to shine in this Germany, where for so many 
a<res, alas, it was not only smothered, but totally extinguished." 
This same scholarly harbinger of the Reformation, applied himself 
also to the Greek language, which then, without lexicon and gram- 
mar, he learned, by dint of industry, of fugitives from the Ottoman 
barbarism. At once he applied^ himself to furnishing helps foflhe 
study of the Greek Scriptures. In this also the\ame benighted 
power of Romanism interposed. He wrote to a friend, " The old 
trammelled sophisters turn up their noses, and cry out in the most 
laughable way, that we carry on literary affairs adverse to Romish 

*Barham's Life and Times of John Ileuchlin, page 116. 


piety, for that the Greeks are Schismatics, and that we venture to 
diffuse their doctrines though forbidden by the laws of the Church." 
But he went forward. By this means he opened to the Germans the 
New Testament, which could never have been had in its pureness 
and power from the much falsified Vulgate. The German Reform- 
ers could never else have come forward with boldness, glowing with 
warm and clear opinions drawn fresh from the inspired fountains. 
The doctrines of tllie Romish Church were now subjected to the tests 
of God's own truth. And in the cultivation of this New Testament 
tongue, a daring enterprise was begun against the spirit of monkery, 
which in its ignorant dread of heretics, and its fervent love of per- 
secution, used to label all Greek MSS. " Cfraeca sunt non leguntur." 
" They are Greek, not to be read." Among the Netherland monks 
the proverb ran, "Si est bonus grammaticus est hereticus." If he 
is a good grammarian he is a heretic. What wonder that John 
Reuchlin, the patron of Scriptural learning, and the man who fur- 
nished the keys to the stores of Scriptural truth, should be entitled 
"the father of the German Reformation." 

But what a revival of Scriptural study sprang out of that rou- 
sing of the soul to personal responsibility and duty. What critical 
discussions ; what learned investigations ; what laborious and volu- 
minous comments did not that impulse produce ! Not that the 
translation of the Scriptures was a new thing, but only new 
since the sway of Popery. The English reformers pointed back to 
the Anglo Saxon Versions, of the time anterior to the Papal rule in 
Britain, to prove that the right to have the Scriptures in 
their own tongue, was their just inheritance — though interrupted — 
bequeathed to the people by their remote ancestors, and no new 
conceit of Cranmer, Cromwell, or the Reformation. And the An- 
glo Saxon Gospels we have yet extant and reprinted in our day, as 
a living testimony against the falsity and tyranny of Rome. So 
that you may trace the history of Scriptural Christianity by the his- 
tory of Scriptural study. You can see where the Herod of Rome, 
for Herodias' sake, imprisoned and beheaded the Gospel of Christ. 


Where this anti-scriptural apostacy arose, there the translation 
and circulation of Scripture ended till the Reformation. I have 
looked with wonder on the very Hebrew Bible, so diligently handled 
by Luther, and upon the original manuscripts of his version of the 
Psalms, now treasured in one of the great Protestant libraries of the 
Continent. When in the opening of the fourteenth century, one 
of the Popes in self defence, thought to provide for some knowledge 
of the Hebrew in the Papal Church, it Was found impossible during 
two centuries to appoint a single professor in any university, 
excepting Oxford alone. 

I. In urging a critical study of the Scriptures, especially in a 
Theological course, we plead first of all that it is due to the Protestant 
'principle, and to the very spirit of the Reformation. 

Our candidates for the holy ministry abjure in their hearts the Popish 
system on this point, yet how many fall into it in their practice. 
They scorn the thought of relinquishing private judgment in inter- 
preting the word of God, yet how often they practically waive the 
privilege. Though the Bible is not forbidden to them in the origi- 
nals, how many forbid it to themselves. And even while they are 
battling the theory with the Papal Church, they are themselves 
perhaps depending on some authoritative interpreter, rather than 
make personal examination. They are submitting to some current, 
traditional comment, as though they acknowledged the Church to 
fbe .an infallible expositor of the word. Shall we say that the slight 
attention given to this department, as it deserts the Reformation 
ground, so, leads the way to apostacy from the great reformed prin- 
ciples. To maintain the principles, they must be kept in lively 
exercise. The right of private judgment is best asserted, not as a 
mere theory, but as a practice. The practical undervaluing of this 
inalienable right must tend to its theoretical abandonment. As we 
are jealous for the doctrine, therefore, as vital to the Christian 
Church, so are we jealous and zealous for the habit, as indispensa- 
ble. Against the binding force of traditions, as qualifying the 
Scriptures; against the withholding of God's Word from the people; 


against church authority as superseding God's authority in its inter- 
pretation ; against any supplanting of the originals by a version, and 
against the whole system of lies whereby the truth of God is made 
void, we would have this practical protest entered, in a more intense 
and universal devotedness to the study of Holy Writ. What did 
the Reformers, to whom the Scriptures came as a new revelation, 
from within iron bars and dead languages ? They translated it 
into every vernacular, until there have gone forth, from that holy 
impulse, Bibles for all tongues and people. 

Has the world any such right is the question ? And yet Popery 
abates nothing of her claims. And yet there are found even 
scholars and professors of the sacred tongues who defer to her pre- 
tensions. In face of the fact that modern European Infidelity has 
grown out of the abuses and absurdities which Romanism practises 
upon the world, some would argue back from Infidelity to Roman- 
ism itself. So the deluded and bewildered politicians of the Old 
World fall back from Socialism upon Popery. So the pendulum 
swings to either extreme. Men who have seen profane liberties 
taken with the Scripture, are found turning to the method 
of refusing liberty to the Scripture itself. And we stand 
pleading for our own Bible, against the sword on the one hand that 
would cut it in pieces, and the false mother on the other hand, who 
would claim it as her own begotten. 

In an underground prison at Rome, a column on which Paul is 
said to have been beheaded, contains the inscription, " The Word 
of God is not bound." But this early Christian testimony, as against 
the heathen, is belied by the Papacy in the face of Christendom, 
while it rebukes as in the name of the martyred Apostle, the apos- 
tate Church itself. 

II. But this critical study is demanded by any proper idea of 
Inspiration. If, indeed, according to Rome, the Church and the 
Priesthood be the inspired authority, it matters little whether the 
Scriptures be inspired or not — nay, whether there be any Scripture 
or not. Or, if according to the latest Infidelity, it could possibly be, 


that the writers were inspired and not the writings, then could the 
Scriptures as such, claim no authority at all. Then could there be 
no proper sense in which this is "the Word of God." What a Sa- 
tanic suggestion that Inspiration cannot be predicated of writings 
but of persons only. If it could be so, then what purpose could 
such an inspiration serve for communicating God's mind and will in 
any permanent form ? If we believe the Scriptures to be God's 
Word, because we see the need of a revelation, and because this is 
such a revelation as we could expect, then any proper view of 
inspiration must cover the department of Language. Strange 
enough that we should have here to meet the new heresy that lan- 
guage is not sufficiently definite for the embodiment of Religious 
truth. And if not for a rule of Faith, then how for a rule of Life? 
If not for a Creed, then how for a Commandment. Let it not* be 
thought that because language so often runs mad, there is no cer- 
tainty in it. He who with His finger twice wrote the decalogue 
upon tables of stone, and often spoke ija living words to men, 
has every way honoured language as the vehicle of His own law: 
shall we not say, has even constructed language to express it? 

What a life and power is there often in a word, when it is a word 
of God — "Pardon" "Righteousness" "Salvation." Luther caught 
oneof these terms in an inspired passage from Paul, and he says, "this 
word, I felt to me the gate of Paradise." So another has it, "A 
word of spiritual power has often sounded in our ears as if all the 
bells of the city of God were ringing to call us to worship, prayer, 
and praise." 

It cannot be concealed that loose theories of inspiration are cur- 
rent, even in. the Church. A neglect of the originals has often 
fostered this — and this, in turn, has often led to a neglect of the 
originals. An inch given to the objector, has only emboldened him 
to take an ell; and after all the attempted reconciliations we find 
only more abhorrent views broached until we are driven back upon 
our original ground. The Scripture theory is the true theory 
of Scripture — that these are " not words which man's wisdom 


teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth;" "explaining 
spiritual things by spiritual words," inspired things by inspired 
words. The few discrepancies to* be harmonized in Books written 
in so many ages and countries, and by so many parties, show plainly 
how exact the dictation must have been. As if during a thousand 
years, there had been wrought in remotest cities, and by hands that 
were strangers to each other, the several limbs and features of a 
marble form, which somehow were brought together, and composed 
the Apollo Belvidere of the Vatican ! * And slight verbal mistakes 
of transcribers, through so many MSS., are far more supposable 
than mistakes of the authors in such a work. And in the four 
Gospels, we have yet to learn whether every variation in the 
narrative of the different Evangelists may not have had some im- 
portant object ; just as a quadriform gospel may have been essen- 
tial to give all those aspects of the Saviour's life and character 
adapted to the varieties of the human mind, and to the modes of 
teaching that obtain in various ages and countries. "f 

And the miraculous preservation of this volume can fairly be 
claimed, at length, as an argument for its Inspiration. Would it — 
could it have been so uncorruptedly handed down to us, but that it 
is the very written Revelation of God's mind and will to men? It is 
not on any Church decision alone that we rest the authority of the 
canonical Scriptures. This could not give an authority, when first it 
must get its authority from the Scriptures themselves. But these, 
as Trench has well said, have witnessed to their own right. 
" Like Aaron's rod which budded and blossomed, these have flow- 
ered and borne fruit, and so have made good their claim to be 
laid up in the Ark of the testimony forever. No Church authority 
could have made the canonical Scriptures potent, and the apocryphal 
impotent. Rather, that testimony in all time, is the formal acknowl- 
edgement of a fact, a submission to the witnessing Spirit, who inspired 
the genuine in eternal distinction from the spurious. ' ' J Skeptical crit- 

* See Cummings on Evidences. fWescott. %Trencli' s Hulsean Lectures . 


ics who are ransacking the originals to find discrepancies — Scholastic 
adventurers who study the Bible to prove it inharmonious and untrue, 
had as well dive into the depths of God's Works, to find that creation 
has had no Creator, because their dull ears do not catch all the har- 
monies — because in their dim vision each natural science with its 
world of facts, does not fully match with every other. An effort 
to account to us for the construction of Scripture without supernat- 
ural aid is winked at by certain Christian scholars. From the brink 
of such a yawning gulf, we fly back to the higher views of inspiration. 

Though there is a sense, then, in which this Book is to be treated 
as other books, for arriving at the contents, who would deny that in 
a most important sense it stands alone ? Should we not look for 
a fulness in its terms, a meaning in its history, and a scope in its 
prophecy befitting the Divine authorship ? Would not the Divine 
foresight often beam in the simplest record, and make history seem 
sometimes like allegory, by reason of the great Gospel ideas that 
constantly shine out from the page ? It is only that both Testa- 
ments are so much one. It is oily that this light is shed forth from 
so many mirrors and reflectors, to increase the brilliancy. That 
which in the skeptic's eye is a myth, is really the pith of the reve- 
lation. Instead of being shadow without substance, it is indeed 
substance and shadow both. These nebulae which they would make 
to be star-dust, are really troops of stars ! The very silence of Scrip- 
ture often speaks — as Boyle has said — like the sun-dial, in which 
the shadow as well as the light informs us. 

Look then at the language of Prophecy. What is to hinder its 
having been so constructed as to embrace a series of fulfilments 
along the whole line of temporal events ? Is it not rather what we 
could expect, as growing out of the boundless range of the Divine 
vision — that the Divine r, vr* should take in a whole train of kindred 
events at a glance— thi tistory — as the morning spreads 

upon many nu . ■ ; [awn — and that just as along line 

of city lamps in a nigh m as one, all should be embraced 

in the view, no one exhausting it, and yet all contemplated, making 

up a fulness that will yet be disclosed? How often these prophetic 
intimations lay folded up in some passage for ages, as only the bud 
to be gradually and sweetly opened to a perfect bloom by the rising 
Sun of Righteousness. The events were to be identified as a fulfil- 
ment under this developing process. " These things have I told 
you, that when the time shall come ye may remember that I told 
you of them." John 16:4. And hence, when an event is thus 
distinctly noticed in the New Testament history, and it is even said 
"all this was done that it might be fulfilled," why should we make 
this to be a mere happy quotation or allusion of the writer, rather 
than find, in the event, a fulfilment, though it be not the chief? 
What a proof, then, does this become of one Divine mind, pervading 
all temporal dispensations. Then the eighth Psalm which David 
sung for an evening hymn perhaps in its lowest sense, is proved 
to have had a higher reference, as quoted by our Lord himself — and 
we see it to be prophetic and Messianic in its fuller scope, glancing 
even at the Incarnation and the Hosannas in the Temple, and the 
glorious restoration through Christ. At the Jews' place of wailing 
in Jerusalem, I found a Rabbi going through the routine of lamen- 
tations, with his open Psalter in hand. I asked him if he would 
turn to the 22d Psalm ? Yes. If he had read the New Testament? 
Yes. If he did not see remarkable connection between the history 
of Christ's crucifixion and the language there. "My God., my God y 
why hast thou forsaken me ? They parted my garments among 
them, and cast lots for my vesture. They pierced my hands and my 
feet" — "But" said he, "you must see ivhat this man says," point- 
ing to the comments at the foot of the page. "This Psalm refers to 
David when he fled from Saul." The Jews, before Christ's coming, 
found as many predictions of Him in the prophets as we have done, 
and more. But when He came, and was rejected by them, they be- 
gan to dispute this reference. Yet Jews and Gentiles, though so 
opposed, agree upon the same canon of Old Testament Scripture. 
And they, with all Christendom, can be held to the same original 
Hebrew text. This fact alone would make the claim of the language 
upon us sacred indeed. 

. 14 

But are not the Jews to be yet convinced and converted to 
Christ? And shall Romanism clo this? How should the Jew be 
an idolater — a worshipper of the Galilean Mary? Where has the 
Jew suffered such grievous and relentless persecutions as at 
the hand of Papal powers? The Spanish Inquisition claims to 
have been set up for the extermination of his abused people. And 
to this .day, as I could read to you, this malignity of nominal Chris- 
tians is the argument against Christianity which he finds it hardest 
to give up. Or shall nationalism do this work? How shall the 
blind lead the blind ? And how is this to be done under a Christian 
ministry, that eschews the study of the Hebrew — that cannot reason 
with a Jew out of the original Scriptures ? Can the church be in 
anywise prepared for an event so glorious and so at hand, with such 
inadequate training in this department? Other languages are 
readily mastered by our young men of business, at the demand of 
some worldly interest, and the Jews themselves, as a people, are 
acquiring in their dispersion, the gift of tongues in which they shall 
yet speak to men of every language, the wonderful works of God. 
They are providentially training (and without miraculous imparta- 
tion) to act as a missionary body, and preach the Gospel to every 
creature. Yet to so many among us, a theological education seems 
sufficiently complete without any understanding of the language in 
which our theology is to be found. 

And what shall we say about the language of prophetic symbols? 
Is the Church ready for this controversy ? Must not false grounds 
be taken where there is no adequate investigation, because no furni- 
ture for the work ? We may avail ourselves of others' labours, and 
use the results of critical inquiry, but shall this be satisfactory where 
the glorious map of the future lies before us, and the predictions 
which might stimulate our faith and zeal are a sealed record — a 
locked casket because of this neglect. How many points in a J these 
glorious futurities lie in a single word — the avaataavs — the jtapwava. 

But another point of interest in the inspiration of Scripture con- 
cerns the Language of Miracles. What is the only principle of 


interpretation ? Do, or do not the Scriptures mean what they say? 
" Many," says Trench, " have learned to regard miracles as so much 
perilous ware, from which it is always an advantage when the Gos- 
pels can be lightened a little." A class of Christian interpreters 
proceed upon the principle not to admit anything as miracle that 
can be possibly explained away. And so they would even "transfer 
the work of Creation from the department of Miracle, to the depart- 
ment of Natural Law." In this field of natural science, the battle 
is now pitched. Every new pretension and position demands of us, 
a critical acquaintance with the inspired word. We have nothing 
to fear from the developements of science ; because God's works and 
God's word can contain nothing but God's truth, which is always as 
consistent as Himself. But the time will not allow of ignorance in 
the defenders of Scripture. Principal Cunningham has well said, 
that "the great contests of the day are to be waged on the fields of 
Scripture itself — by an actual, critical examination of the Hebrew 
and Greek originals." The post of attack is shifted from the de- 
partment of Metaphysics to the department of Physics. And the 
plain simple question turns at length upon the verity of the record, 
and upon the fact of Miracle itself as an evidence of Christianity. 
But Miracles are not more a proof of Christianity than Christianity 
is now a proof of Miracles. The works first testified to the word. 
But the marvellous words have outlived the works and will give 
them an enduring testimony. Romanism brings Scriptural Miracles 
into contempt by her winking Madonnas and bleeding wafers, and 
liquifying blood ; and Rationalism on the other hand, denies the 
possibility of a Miracle, even on Scripture testimony. Now when 
from the controversies of past centuries, the Scripture Canon has 
been proved, and questions of authenticity and genuineness have 
been well settled — "now that the Gospels are seen to be impreg- 
nable beyond all that was known, until Strauss had exhausted his 
quiver" — now that the Inspired Volume has come out of fiery 
trials on questions of language, various readings, integrity of 
the text, &c, the aim with some is to refine away all real 


Christianity into a dreamy mysticism, or a transcendental senti- 
ment — anything that will emasculate this religion, destroying its 
life and power. But having gained such ground, as the life-long 
toils of Christian scholars have won for us, we have now to battle for 
the plain, unvarnished, and unabated meaning of the inspired word. 
The tendency of science in the hands of ungodly men to Atheistic 
Materialism, demands a knowledge of its latest disclosures in a jeal- 
ous but fearless reference to the written word. What have those 
critics gained who have been so unwilling to find Miracles in the 
Scriptures — who have disparaged every thing miraculous where the 
slightest pretence could be found ? They have seen the skeptical 
taste fostered and the position emboldened, until all that is super- 
natural in Christianity, is sought to be explained away! 

The Rationalistic interpretation practices upon the language 
until it comes as has been well said, to substitute philological for 
historical wonders. What if we are told that the miraculous con- 
version of water into wine, was merely the bringing in of a new 
supply from without, and only so represented in the narrative ? 
What if we hear that Peters' finding the money in the fish's mouth 
was only his catching as many fish as would sell for that money ? 
The question then turns upon the use of language, and the common 
universal laws of interpretation. 

But it needs to be seen that Miracles were not mere arbitrary 
signs, to attest Christ's commission and the Divine revelation. 
They were chosen, peculiar signs — every one of them reflecting im- 
portant truth, illustrative of the system under which they were 
wrought. While the Pantheistic deniers of the miracle would make 
it an impossible thing, against God's revelation of himself, and in- 
consistent with God, these miraculous works stand out in beautiful 
consistency with all the doctrine of the Fall and the Redemption. 
Under the New Testament, Christ appears in them as restoring the 
ruins of the fall, and in each redemptive act, hints to us of what the 
full redemption shall be. Hence it is history and picture both; 
not myth but truth, and truth pictorial, illustrative of other truth. 


Miracles are thus prophetic, if you please, just as prophecy is in a 
sense miraculous. 

But we urge further that this critical study of the Scripture is 
becoming ever more indispensable to the ordinary work of the min- 
istry. If students have held the critical controversies as apart from 
their practical work, or that the language of God's Word might be 
left for the Theology of it — let them beware. As though one must not 
always prove his ignorance, while he knows not as yet the language 
in which his theology is found. This aversion to close analysis — to - 
roots and idioms — to the business of grammars and lexicons — this 
impatience of immediate results in the conversion of men, must find 
the way everywhere contested. The great moral questions of the 
day are to be agitated and settled not so much on the old grounds 
of expediency or philosophy, as upon this ground of the letter of 
God's Word — the Thus saitli the Lord. We have pleaded for the 
Sabbath, and for social order too much on grounds of mere utility. 
And when, at length, men reply that this is not their view of utility, 
or that indulgence is a higher law to them, where shall our practical 
preachers find themselves — having left too much the platform of 
God's Word? What will you say about the Mosaic record — about 
the institution and law of the Sabbath — about the theory that the 
Apostolic writings were designed only for that time, and have be- 
come mainly obsolete — what about the doctrine of Hell and Eternal 
punishment as a Jewish notion, not maintained by the terms of 
Scripture ? 

Skepticism is adopting the cheap tract system of sending its poi- 
sonous leaves broadcast, and sowing beside many waters. Shame 
on our educated ministry, that the great students in the originals, 
and the scholars in this day are so much the perverters of the truth ! 
These must be met. Their sophistries in what is called the higher 
criticism, are coming freely among us. The emigration from the 
German States increases and is likely to increase. The most rabid 
Socialists of the West are said to have come out of the Romish 
Church. If indeed our day be, as Hengstenberg supposes, the sea- 
son of Satan's being loosed, in every form of Skepticism and false 


science, of social disorganization and priestly pretension, of war, and 
lust and crime, then can any be idle? Infidelity seems driven from 
its Judea and its Jerusalem, to go abroad in the earth, on its Sa- 
tanic commission. Our new States are especially exposed to this 
learned Rationalism, and this vulgar Infidelity. The truth of 
Christ must have her numerous and well trained champions. The 
absence of Christian organization and religious restraint in our new 
territories will seem to give this enemy the field for a time, until 
Churches can be planted and strengthened. But the defences of 
Christianity must be popularized — must be brought down to the 
masses. And our students must be so abundantly armed as to fur- 
nish arms to others. The wants of the Church require eminently in 
our day, a ministry, (not to say a membership) learned in the 
Scriptures, familiar with the English version in all its parts, and 
versed in the originals. There needs, now, a dispensation, as of the 
last Apostle — a ministry raised up for carrying the Gospel to the 
learned Gentile world — as to the very schools of Athens, and the 
very courts of Rome — men who, for this end, have sat at the feet 
of whatever Gamaliel, in this day of most abundant helps. The con- 
test becomes more radical, and so more biblical. The learned criticism 
that is merely Scholastic, separates itself from a living faith in 
Christianity, and treats the Bible altogether as any other book, and 
the writings as simply the productions of their authors — the Psalms 
as mere natural poetry. What we need is a critisism as learned, 
which is yet Christian, and which, from an inner citadel of faith, 
goes forth to defend the outworks. Errors of fact and of science, 
and discrepancies between the narratives, as of common writers, 
quite at war with the doctrine of a plenary inspiration, will be as- 
serted by the crowd, as they are sometimes conceded by such schol- 
ars as are mere scholars. And then comes the question, — Is there' 
such a thing as Inspiration? or miracle, or prophecy? Is there any 
written revelation? And is there any binding authority in the Bi- 
ble? Is it the word of God ? 

Rome presses to the same Infidel questioning, by casting doubt 
upon the infallible word, in order to magnify her own infallibility. 


Rome, like Infidelity, asserts the practical inutility of Scripture, the 
obscureness of the Divine oracle — the worthies sness, nay the mis- 
chief of the Bible in the hands of the people. She pleads that the 
field of inspired truth, is "a field of thickets and brambles," and 
that God's word is only the store-house from which all fatal errors 
have been gathered. And though Christ himself has commanded 
the people to "search the Scriptures" Rome protests and gives 
counter command; and, worst of all, she puts forward a corrupt 
Church, and a more corrupt Priesthood, as the inspired authority ! 
To meet all this, we must more fully arm ourselves with the Bible, 
and stand with the sword of the Spirit. Our arrows must be drawn 
from this quiver. "If Biblicism has been attacked among us," says 
D'Aubigne, "the reason is that there is not enough Biblicism among 

Plainly, the question which comprises all moral questions, must 
turn upon sacred criticism. And in this field every licentiate should 
prove himself at home. It is vain to talk loudly of Skepticism, 
Infidelity, German Rationalism, Priestly Authority, False Science, 
if this be understood as only the hue and cry of ignorant declaimers, 
who boast their indifference to original and critical research. The 
people may soon come to demand of their ministers, the solution of 
difficulties proposed by learned deism, and by the latest analysis. 
It will be not declamation so much, as demonstration, that will be 
sought. And what we must have, is a ministry more thoroughly 
Biblical — in training, in arguing, in preaching. This will soon give 
us a membership better skilled in the defence of Christianity. We 
have demand this moment, for something not German but American 
— not for scholars as such, but for the Church at large, that shall 
bring home to every intelligent reader the results of learned re- 
search as to the authority, integrity, and interpretation of each of 
the canonical books, with reference to the latest inquiries. The 
explorations in the geography of Scripture, and the startling develope- 
ments in antiquities, must force something of their results and evi- 
dence upon public attention. It is remarkable that testimonies to 
Holy Writ arc gathering from most unexpected and indisputable 


sources. It is almost the kind of proof asked by Dives in torment 
for his brethren on earth. One comes to us from the dead of history — 
from the mounds of the Tigris, and from the rocks of Sinai — and the 
menof Nineveh, are strangely rising up in judgment against this gener- 
ation to condemn it. God had ordained the burial of ancient cities and 
records, it would seem, for a resurrection in our day — and strange 
confirmations of Holy Writ are dug up from old graves, to confront 
objectors in an age of boasting disbelief. 

Astronomy, with its telescopes of ever more amazing power makes 
its new discoveries, and turns to the most ancient of the inspired 
writings only to find there the evidence of the profoundest knowl- 
edge, such as proves the divine origin of the record. These trea- 
sures of revelation, historical and scientific, as well as moral, are to 
be dug for in order to be found. 

Need we urge, finally, that such a critical study of the Scriptures 
must be only more strengthening and enlivening to ones daily 
piety. Whatever gives confirmation to Christian faith is a means of 
grace. This is edification, whereby one is built more and more upon 
the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and finds Jesus Christ 
himself to be the chief corner stone of all truth. If Christian learn- 
ing was ever feared as dampening Christian ardour, that time has 
past, except with dreamers and visionaries. Just as it confirms our 
faith to traverse now the very localities of Scriptural history, and 
just as the bold features of Jerusalem are found there so exactly 
corresponding with the records, that we recognize Zion, and Olivet, 
and Kedron, and Jehoshaphat, as the lines of a familiar face, and 
can walk the old footpath to Bethany as if with Christ himself — so 
to get the gospel in the very terms of it, is inspiring and refreshing 
beyond comparison. It is like washing in Jordan itself, rather than 
in Abana, or Pharpar of Damacus. 

But it will appear from all the history of Scriptural study, 
that with the learning that is demanded, the Piety is ever 
the most indispensable. God does not construct his revelation, 
whether in nature, in providence, or in Scripture, so as to 
force conviction. This is constantly a test of principle. One 


may disbelieve, precisely what another believes. The difference 
shall be owing to the heart. Mere scholarship in Scripture will 
not command faith. The mere scholastic furniture may rather hin- 
der it : just as the physician who studies anatomy and disease as a 
mere science may be skeptical of the Divine authorship by deifying 
natural law : just as the printer may set up the types of every 
learned volume, and never be learned. The fresh, evangelical spirit 
of our American Church might put minute research to the very best 
account. Based upon a lively piety and a believing spirit, a true 
Christian scholarship could now do more among us for the coming 
Kingdom than two centuries of mere investigation have done. Let 
it not be imagined that Scholasticism is what we want, any more 
than Monasticism. Mere grammar and philology have flourished 
and do now flourish where, alas, the simple teaching of the Holy 
Ghost, and the Bible knowledge of many an unlettered saint cannot 
be found. As Tholuck, in the view of such a system, has well said, 
"I have deduced a doctrine for myself that in reading the word of 
God, the right interpretation can by no means be reached by pick- 
ing at the letter. Ye who squeeze and press the letter, though you 
do it with good intention, do but be reminded how often, when 
this, which may truly be named a genuine mother's breast, has been 
too much pressed, blood instead of milk has flowed forth." Luther 
too beheld the mischief when he said, "Human reason flits and flut- 
ters about the letter of the Divine Word, until it has got it to rights 
for itself. How often men who deal in keys, and are noted lock- 
picks, are thieves and robbers ! I warn you that a critical skepti- 
cism may become fashionable here, as in parts of Germany; when to 
be a savant as some one has said, one must reject some canonical 
book, or bring forward some new theory of revelation. How many 
are rich in the grammar but poor in the grace ! How many work 
in this laboratory night and day, and put the Scriptures, text by 
text, and word by word into their red hot crucible — and this is their 
business and trade! They may even make discoveries, quote au- 
thorities, crowd their treatises with learned terms, and yet they have 
only made a book on the Bible, and have not entered into the ves- 


tibule of the Holy Temple of God. Like children they are ever 
swinging to and fro upon the gate, and never enter. How different 
a thing to devour the Bible physically — as in Russia, men are made 
in punishment, to eat their own book — or to receive the word, and 
live on "the pure milk of the word," and "grow thereby." 

"We would plead, then, for a critical study of the Scriptures in 
the whole community. In the' family, the Bible class, the Sabbath 
School, the English Bible, at least, should be studied — in its history, 
its canon, its connections, and in its defences. We must come to 
this, if we would fortify our youth against the arrogant assumptions 
of a corrupt hierarchy, or against the infidel objections which are 
on the lips of the multitude. If we would be saved from the scourge 
of up-start netv-versionists, our own time-honoured version must be 
known, in its claims upon scholarly respect and reverence. Instead 
of removing from our colleges the departments of moral philosophy 
and natural science, as bearing upon God's Word, let a greater 
attention be devoted to these branches in the collegiate course. 
Instead of transferring these studies to our Theological Seminaries, 
because they make a special claim upon our ministry at this day, 
let them rather have an enlarged place in our colleges, where all 
our young men can be taught them as essentials for any liberal pro- 
fession or occupation. Would that our collegiate course could be 
more Biblical — more religious. Would that our candidates could 
come to their theological curriculum full masters of mental, moral 
and natural science — skilled in the defences of our Christianity, and 
critical scholars in the Scriptures, with knowledge of the Hebrew, no 
less than of the Greek language. This we need. And our Church 
in carrying out its noble plan of religious education may yet bring 
us this desideratum, with all the other blessings of such a work. 

In conclusion, it is plain that the ministry of our day must battle 
right and left, against Romanism on the one hand, and Rationalism 
on the other. Against both alike we are called to assert and main- 
tain the supreme authority of God's Word. The one adds to the 
Scriptures what will suit its own system of error and superstition — 
using its traditions as Mahommed used his new revelations, merely 


to serve his purpose of power, and to build up his scheme of delu- 
sion. The other takes away from the Scripture whatever it please — 
some things as uninspired, others as obsolete, others as erroneous, 
others as mystical, until it has cut and trimmed the Bible to its own 
liking. But against both, the angel of the apocalypse utters the 
same awful and final anathema, "to add to them, all the plagues that 
are written in the Book," or "to take away their part out of the Book 
of Life." We stand on the simple platform of the Word of Cfod, 
as the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The Religion of 
Protestant Christianity is the Religion of God's Word. On either 
side of us, all is a sea of doubt and invention. We find ourselves 
assailed right and left — but this is our ground : "Tradition and in- 
novation are the Scylla and Charybdis of our Theology." The old 
bottles of Romanism, or the new patches of Rationalism, we alike 
reject. The Jewish old clothes of the Papacy, or the meretricious 
finery of Infidelity, we cannot buy at such a price as the pearl of 
God's truth. The Church, like her Master, is now led up by the 
spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the Devil. And at every 
challenge, impious as it may be, we are to confront him out of the 
Scriptures, " as it is written" — "as it is written." The right of 
private judgment which we assert is not the right of enthroning 
reason above revelation. It is rather a denial of man's right to 
enthrone anything above the simple Word of God. We do not re- 
nounce authority. We denounce mere human authority to exalt the 
Divine. We reject the authority of the priest and the Church where 
they have usurped God's authority as set forth in his word. And 
with the most profound submission, we bow to the written rule, 
knowing that no prerogative can transcend God's own. The chief. 
Romish author of our day declares that " he who establishes Ms 
faith upon Scripture, or on the results to which his Biblical re- 
searches have led. him, has no faith — does not knoiv at all what faith 
is."* And the latest Rationalism echoes the same sentiment, that 
" Biblicism is not merely a Theological error, but a placjuc of the 
Church.''^ And so we see, it is Rome that plays into the hands of 

*Mofthler. fScherer. 


Infidelity — baptizes its most rabid aspersions upon Scripture and 
sanctifies its arguments. The pleadings of the Romanist and those 
of the Rationalist are most remarkably akin, as aimed against our 
position. Both contest our right of going directly to the Bible. Both 
deny its supreme authority. The former would overthrow it, to 
establish its own; the latter would overthrow it to establish nothing. 
They may protest that they have no liking for each other. But like 
Herod and Pilate, they conspire to crush the "Eternal Word. Ro- 
manism like Herod, arrays Christ in a gorgeous robe, sets Him at 
nought, and sends him with pomp to Pilate. And Infidelity, like 
Pilate, coolly washes its hands of the awful consequence, and hands 
him over to the violent multitude for crucifixion. 

Gentlemen of the Board of Directors — 

I have come to this work 
profoundly impressed with the demands of my department. I claim 
to bring to it only an enthusiasm — which I hope at least to impart to 
the students — and a sense of inadequacy to fulfil its high obligations. 
I could have shrunk from it altogether, but that providence was dis- 
abling me from my pastoral charge, yet leaving me some strength 
and furniture for this. And only your call, with the flattering una- 
nimity of the General Assembly, could have satisfied me in remov- 
ing from the field of my twelve years labor and reward. 

Death is sadly invading the corps of this Professorship in our 
land. Two venerable and eminent names have lately been inscribed 
among the dead. Stuart and Edwards have gone from the same 
institution to the world of Revelation. Our own beloved Church 
yet weeps over the fathers who have recently vacated their different 
chairs for the heavenly seats. But the Great Teacher ever lives — 
the Inspirer of the word, and the promised Infallible Guide into all 
truth. And the Gracious Master, as Head of the Church, and 
Helper of his weak servants, gives the Holy Spirit to them who 
ask Him. 


^3^ Syracuse, N. Y. 
■^^— Stockton, Calif. 

BS540 J17 

A plea for the critical study of the 

Princeton Theological Seminary-Speer Library 

1 1012 00038 8530